The storm clouds that gathered in the evening sky Monday seemed to perfectly match the solemn mood of those gathered at Lafayette Boulevard and West Park Avenue. Community members banded together for the annual 9/11 Remembrance Memorial Ceremony, honoring the 3,000 people who lost their lives 22 years ago, as well as the firefighters and first responders who lost their lives.
Hosted by the Long Beach Fire Department and the City of Long Beach, the event began with an invocation prayer by Pastor Donald Beckmann of St. Ignatius Martyr Church, followed by Acting City Manager and Police Commissioner Ron Walsh relating his harrowing experiences at Ground Zero assisting in DNA collection, so that family members of victims could find some sort of closure.
Councilmember Liz Treston, filled with emotion, emphasized that first responders “should not have to fight at every level of government for healthcare” and that it is her responsibility, as well as the responsibility of all of us, to “protect those that protected us.” She also emphasized to share 9/11 stories about friends and neighbors.
She said to remember the “many people who came from around this great country and made all of us realize that we have more in common than we do not.”
“A lot of the dangers and challenges that all of you face on a daily basis, never knowing when you respond to a call what you are going to experience,” said legislator Denise Ford, whose husband was a firefighter. “On that day, we lost 343 of your brothers, a tragedy that we can never get over. But despite the loss, despite the trauma, you still showed up afterwards.”
Long Beach Fire Captain Chris Troy read the names of 16 people from the community who have died of 9/11-related illnesses, which was followed by five rings of the bell which in the fire service, explained firefighter Zachary Grunther, “means you have answered your final alarm.” A bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace then filled the air.
“Thousands of lives were lost and we honor their memory, every single day,” Grunther said. “Thousands more were saved.”
Rabbi Jack Zanerhaft of Temple Emanu-El provided the final prayer, saying he doesn’t “think that it’s a coincidence that every year this event happens in the shadow of the High Holy Days. When our tradition tells us that it’s a time, a portal, for introspection, for self-improvement, and for betterment of the world.”
As the ceremony ended, and departing attendees exchanged hugs and well wishes, Legislator Denise Ford provided one last ray of hope.
“22 years later, I’m proud that this community is still showing up and they are still taking the time to commemorate,” she said. “They haven’t forgotten.”
For many, on the anniversary of this tragic day, the storm clouds have not passed. But one can always find a silver lining.